PEMBROKE — Joshua Oxendine and Luke Canady have been training seven days a week, traveling all over the local area and around the state in hopes of capitalizing on their chance of a lifetime on Sept. 3.
The pair of mixed martial artists, who live in Pembroke, are prepping for the King of the Cage World Amateur Championships 3 being held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, vying for a chance for them to get their big break into the MMA world. Five professional contracts are on the line for 30 amateur fighters that were selected out of 1,000 entrants nationwide to fight in the event, and when it’s all said and done they hope they are the ones that come out on top.
On top of the fight being hosted in Las Vegas, it will also be broadcasted live on MAVTV.
“That would basically change my life because it would put my name out there and I’ve got a family — two little girls and a wife — so that money would help us out and help me get to the next level,” Oxendine said.
Oxendine will fight at flyweight and is 1-1 in sanctioned matches in his career since his first professional bout in August 2015. Canady will fight at lightweight and is 2-1 in sanctioned matches with his first fight coming in January of 2015.
“It would mean a lot because I’m just trying to make it,” Canady said. “I’m just trying trying to get to the Ultimate Fighting Championship or the Bellator. You win that and that gets our face out there and it gets us recognized.”
Canady, 24, and Oxendine, 22, started training for mixed martial arts when they both were around 18 years old. They know that puts them at a disadvantage against fighters that have been training at a younger age or have backgrounds in wrestling, boxing or martial arts when they were growing up, but say their will to win is just as strong as their competitors.
“You have no training and they have training so you have to start from scratch,” Canady said.
While serving three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Oxendine fell in love with boxing and wrestling and was the driving force at getting him into MMA over the past two years.
“I started boxing and ground wrestling when I was in (the Marines),” Oxendine said. “Once I got out, I was wanting to do it full time and now I’m just trying to reach my goal of making it to the UFC.”
Canady’s start in the sport came when he got his first pair of gloves at 18 years old. He said he fell in love with the sport and hitting people. His start training-wise comes from some of the martial arts studios in the Lumberton area.
“I had been training at Lacey Green’s (Thunderzone Karate) and that’s where I learned most of my stuff at,” Canady said.
He has also went to Dojo Knights to learn Ju-Jitsu.
Both joke and say they can always be seen around Pembroke or Lumberton together because they are always somewhere training with a concentrated workout regiment that includes Jiu-Jitsu training in Lumberton and wrestling in Laurinburg.
With limited places to train in Robeson County, Oxendine goes to Charlotte to train with other MMA trainers and fighters
“Coming from a small town, there’s not a lot over here,” Oxendine said. “You have to go to Charlotte or other places like that to find good training.”
Through previous fights, Oxendine and Canady have learned that their work on the mats against opponents that prefer to wrestle and see wins through submissions needs to be improved going into the amateur championships and have trained to help better that aspect to make their game more well-rounded.
“I’m looking to be more well-rounded because I already know the guy I’m fighting and I know he likes to get you on the ground and stuff,” Oxendine said. “But I’m a boxer and I like to sit there and bang. I don’t care about getting hit in the face, it doesn’t bother me. I know I’m going to have to worry about takedowns and getting to the ground so I’m trying to get more well rounded for that.”
Just like every fighter, however, they want compete to their strong suits.
“I’ll always be standing up,” Canady said. “Standing up is where it’s at.”
Being approved to compete in Las Vegas has proved to be half the fight as they both are training to prepare themselves, but also fundraising to help pay their travel and expenses to the tournament. They have hosted fundraising nights at the Wing Co. restaurant in Pembroke and are planning another one closer to their departure. They also have set up GoFundMe.com pages that can be found by searching their names on the website.
In the meantime, Oxendine and Canady prep as much and wherever they can for the biggest fights of their careers hoping that could be their big break.
“That’s why we’re doing it. Las Vegas, live TV and millions of people watching, just showing that it doesn’t matter where you come from as long as you’ve got that will and motivation that you can go anywhere,” Oxendine said.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.